Game 82, Orioles at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, 1:10pm
When the M’s are successful, there’s a natural tendency to see the results as an expression of the great changes brought about by the new front office, but it’s kind of funny when you look at *how* they’ve succeeded. Zduriencik was rightly criticized for what seemed like a fixation on power – and RH power in particular – at the expense of every other aspect of the game. The M’s have won three in a row for the first time since May by outslugging the slugging Orioles. The M’s right-handed sluggers like Nelson Cruz and Dae Ho Lee are a key reason why the M’s find themselves over .500. The M’s defense still isn’t great, and they still can’t run the bases very well, but instead of getting pitiful performance from every right-handed complementary player (Trumbo), they’re getting actual production from the odd-couple of Guti and Lee. This isn’t a complaint, mind you, but it and Trumbo’s resurgence with the O’s, must be frustrating to Zduriencik.
Ubaldo Jimenez fascinates me. His Fangraphs page defies explanation and sabermetric ideas. There’s volatility, and then there’s whatever Jimenez is doing. Since 2010, his ERAs have been: 2.68, 4.68, 5.40, 3.30, 4.81, 4.11 and now 6.63. A tremendously lucky (or unlucky?) player? I don’t know, because his FIP (and xFIP) follows the same lack-of-pattern. I can’t tell if his bizarre career is the product of too much luck or too little. Sabermetric analysis of pitchers has centered on the concept of true talent, a lodestar around which results orbit, pushed from the center by luck, variance, park effects, opposition strength, defense, etc. The idea of getting a glimpse of true talent by measuring these results is an attractive one, but Jimenez makes a mockery of it. Instead of these smooth arcs, resembling planetary orbits, Jimenez calls to mind someone trying and failing to control a massive machine that spinning out of control. Parts are flying off, there’s smoke billowing from the engine, but every now and again, it almost looks controlled. But whatever that big machine is doing, it’s pretty clearly not orbiting anything – the point around which it’s spinning is moving, too.
Jimenez has changed his pitch mix a few times, and he’s gained and lost velocity. Occasionally, he’s quite good against lefties, and at other times, he makes them look like a collective Mike Trout. There is nothing but variance. There’s no fixed point with Jimenez, there is only the struggle to figure out how to change next.
It helps that his mechanics look so odd. Some pitchers look fluid, like their arm and trunk make graceful arcs and circles in the course of delivering the baseball. Jimenez is all angles and thrusts at angles that go everywhere but towards the catcher’s mitt. When he’s going great, you can see that it might be tough to pick up the ball, and when he’s not, it seems like a gigantic waste of effort and source of potential error.
1: Martin, CF
2: Smith, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lind, 1B
7: Gutierrez, RF
8: Iannetta, C
9: Marte, SS